Researchers from various Australian universities have been documenting the leopards along the Malay Peninsula. Unfortunately for them, it’s not an easy task since, almost all the leopards are black. According to Laurie Hedges, a carnivore researcher from the University of Nottingham,
In the same way a genetic mutation can cause some individuals within a species to display albino characteristics, black panthers are simply individuals that have a genotype causing a uniformly black coloration on their coat. In total 13 species of wild felids have been documented with ‘melanistic’ or black forms, but apart from the difference in coloration, they are still the same species as their patterned counter parts.”
Good thing these researchers have now found an easy way to spot the difference – and it’s all in the camera.
Most automatic cameras have an infrared flash, but it’s only activated at night. However, by blocking the camera’s light sensor, we can fool the camera into thinking it’s night even during the day, so it always flashes,” says Dr. Gopalasamy Reuben Clements of James Cook University.
Using their cameras in this way revealed the hidden, distinctive leopard print we are familiar with, which could be used to differentiate between different animals. This brand new method could greatly aid future research and conservation efforts.